The Peski Kids 1, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach
R. A. Spratt
275pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99
Feisty, feminist April is twelve; pedantic, peace-loving Fin is 13; shy, stuttering Joe is 16 and they are the children of a brilliant paleontologist mother and a bumbling botanist father. When their mother is captured at an Eastern European airport and imprisoned for being an international spy, her boss Professor Maynard intervenes, blows their house up and whisks the children away just seconds before the Kolektiv come to do the same thing.
Driving through the night, they are taken to their father’s farm near the tiny town of Currawong, a man who is as vague as their mother is smart and whom they haven’t seen for eleven years and scarcely remember because he is terrified of his wife. He is so nervous and passive that he lets his young neighbour Loretta Viswanathan practise her show jumping in his garden, despite her crashing into and ruining his carefully collected and nurtured plants.
Forced to change their name, and urged by Professor Maynard to fit into the community so they are safe, they find themselves having to don a school uniform – which includes a skirt for April which deeply offends her principles of choices – and rushed off to school along with Pumpkin, April’s companion dog to help her with her anger management issues but which has more issues than she does.
But how are they going to fit into a town that has a giant potato (that looks like a big poo) as its main tourist attraction and where the Currawong Annual Cockroach Races are one of the biggest events of the year and the greatest hero to have emerged was a long-ago lawn bowls champion who is still honoured? Can independent, street-wise city kids become country kids? Can they put their personal differences and continual squabbling aside to unite and keep themselves safe?
This is the first in a new series from the author of Friday Barnes and Nanny Piggins and which promises to be just as engaging and intriguing as its predecessors. Because she draws on her own experiences, family, and surroundings, Spratt has a knack of making the quirkiest of characters credible so that the reader immediately connects with them and wants to find out what happens as they navigate their way not only through “normal life” but also the adventures and mysteries that befall them. Inwardly, they want to be like Friday and her cohort and it will be no exception with this new family. Funny, sassy, smart, independent, resilient with a strong sense of their own self and their place in the world, April, Fin (aka Sharkfin) and Joe (aka Peregrine but he forged a new birth certificate) will quickly become the new aspirational heroes for the 10+ age group who are independent readers.
With two more additions already planned for release in January and August next year, Miss 12 (who adored Friday Barnes and begged me to buy her the whole series) is going to have her Christmas holiday reading sorted, as will all the other Friday Barnes fans!
‘The Peski Kids, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach will be launched at The Little Bookroom in Melbourne, today August 22.